According to new US research, the best way to temper pain and anxiety in a dentist's chair or any other anxiety-producing medical procedure is to lose yourself in music.
Announced last week, the University of Utah study asked 143 people to listen to music while they received a painful shock to their fingertips. Those participants who were asked to follow the melodies and identify unusual tones reported decreased pain levels, and this was especially true for those who reported anxiety during the experiment.
The researchers also measured physical pain responses, such as electrical activity in the brain and dilation of the pupils.
The findings are published in December's Journal of Pain.
"The results suggest that engaging activities like music listening may be most effective for reducing pain in high-anxiety persons who can easily become absorbed in activities," noted the researchers in a press release.
While the study didn't examine which musical genres worked best, lead researcher David H. Bradshaw told WebMD on Wednesday that the type of music isn't as important as how well it holds the patient's interest.
Nervous about your next dental appointment? "Listening to music with headphones or playing a video game with sound effects that you can listen to with headphones are effective, as the sounds can mask the sound of the dental instruments," he added.
Prior research has supported music therapy as a treatment for a variety of conditions, ranging from brain-based problems such as stroke-related deficits, Alzheimer's disease symptoms, and epileptic seizures to acute and chronic physical and emotional pain and anxiety.